Part 2 of You Died’s special look at our favorite videogame soundtracks (as the title implies…). Part 1 can be looked at in full glory here but for now, here’s Gav W’s choices:
Silent Hill 2
Composer: Akira Yamaoka
If desperation, loss and isolation had a soundtrack, this would be it. Walls of ethereal synths, sorrow filled piano hiding the layer of unnatural clanging metal below, all mixed in with Portishead esc beats and reverb heavy guitar cloaked in a layer of vinyl crackle. Weird clicks, drones and radio static sit in the background, creating unsettling tension, a feeling that something just isn’t right. One of the last tracks, ‘Black Fairy‘ mixes everything into a dizzying migraine of confusion. There’s a little Twin Peaks influence here too, especially in the incredible ‘Promise: Reprise‘ made up a continuous rise of a fake hope, cutting off just before the resolution. On the opposite side you have ‘Ashes and Ghost’, a throbbing heartbeat like synth with electronic drones scraping away, pointing to an inevitable horror you can’t escape. Despite all the darkness and the downbeat sound-scapes it’s oddly beautiful. Put it on, get morose and admit that everything’s ruined.
Street Fighter 2
Composer: Yoko Shimomura, rearranged for the SNES by Tatsuya Nishimura
BA BAAAAA BA DAH DAH DAAA DAA DAAAAAAAAAH.
Fucking Street Fighter. The soundtrack to a thousand arcades in the 90’s and crammed full of themes that are permanently on the fringes of my consciousness. Like the game itself, there’s about twenty thousand variations on the music so I’ll stick to the the one I know best, the SNES. Each theme is so perfectly matched with the stage, from the jungle beats and pan-pipes of Blanka’s stage, the lazy melodies of E. Honda’s bath stage, rising top gun-esc Guile theme down to the rolling bass intro of Ryu’s stage, all perfectly formed. Ryu’s in particular *sounds* like an epic fight in front a moonlit sky. If the double bass drums in the chorus don’t make you want to beat the shit out of your best mate, your childhood clearly sucked.
There’s something not quite right about hearing these songs without the extra layer of a frantic Hadoken battle raging over the top of them or the switching tempo trick the game pulls when a fight is nearing its end, but purely for what this game means to me these songs will always have a special place.
COMPOSER: Kelly Bailey.
Valve have a strong history of soundtracks, mainly down to the stupidly talented Kelly Bailey who composed not only this, but also the soundtracks for Half-Life and Portal and he built the iconic Test Chamber section from the first Half-Life. It is for me, Half-Life 2’s soundtrack that remains his stand out work.
A rousing, eclectic collection of glitchy electro, hauntingly bleak soundscapes and relentless, straight up dance music with every track having an underlying feeling of making you feel incredibly nervous and tense, a perfectly done extension of the game’s themes. Take ‘You’re Not Supposed to Be Here’, the track that features when you get the mounted gun for your hovercraft. A fast paced jungle beat with looping bass drones and rising melodies, it lets you know that revenge for what that Hunter-Chopper has been doing is at hand. But it is with the deep, droning soundscapes that the soundtrack really excels. The level of discomfort within the redone ‘Neutrino Trap’ from Half-Life 1 is staggering. Essentially one continuously rising, distorted note with cold, reverb-less clangs popping in through out. Half-Life 2 is for me, the finest game ever made and this soundtrack is the icing on top of that finest of cakes.
Streets of Rage 2
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
A bit cliché to include this, but there’s a reason it appears on every ‘best music’ list and that’s because it’s absolutely banging. The sound of pure 90’s trance, electro, funk and house music, all blended perfectly into a soundtrack that proved that whilst the SNES undoubtedly had more graphical power, the Mega Drive’s soundchip was second to none. ‘Max Man‘ sounds like it stepped off of the Prodigy’s first album and the end credits music is the most uplifting thing you’ll ever hear. The lazy jazz of ‘In The Bar’, feels improvised with it’s gentle walking bass lines – but as good as that is, it’s not the music for smacking the faces off of punks…that comes to the boss fight music.
Named ‘Never Return Alive’ is an ominous, heavy track with a bouncing bass line and stabbing synth that gears you up properly for a bastard hard fight. At around 1.27, the track kicks into a second gear and two duelling alarm like synth start bouncing between the speakers with that lovely warm ‘so deep it hisses’ kick drum. If they played this in clubs, I’d probably leave my house more often*
*No I wouldn’t.
I had a copy of the game CD from a friend years before I even had a PC just so I could listen to this soundtrack (starting at track 2…track 1 was the game data..not so fun). The perfect thudding industrial accompaniment to the unloading of a Nailgun into a Shambler’s face. Starting off with the title track built on buzzing guitars and slamming drums, it soon dies out to a drone/ambient affair heavy with atmosphere. Sparse melodies and high pitched noises give way to dry distortion, crunching waves of synth and whispered vocals. It could have easily been a by-the-numbers NIN affair, but Reznor applies a deft touch to create one of the best things he’s ever done. If you’re a NIN fan or just like having your ears assaulted by noise, this is a must.
*side note: WHY THE FUCK HASN’T THIS GAME BEEN PORTED TO CURRENT/OLD GEN CONSOLES?!
And there you have it, 11 of the best soundtracks to exist in gaming. Think we’re wrong? Think we’re arseholes for not including Ocarina of Time? There’s a comment box right under here. Tell us.